I recently returned to the US from Japan to celebrate Christmas and New Years. While I was there, I was surprised by many things I noticed both in myself and around me. Here are my five biggest take-aways from my time in Arizona.
1. It sucks trying to get to a different country.
In order to get to the airport in Tokyo, I had to take a taxi and 3 different trains (including a bullet train, which is admittedly kind of cool). Transferring from train to train with my luggage was a sweaty and stressful feat, but I survived. Then I had my two planes and many hours in small seats to overcome. I watched three movies, and eventually passed out on the flight from LAX to Las Vegas. When I finally reached my grandparent’s house, it was 24 hours after I had left my apartment in Japan and I was a tired, stinky mess. On the way back to Tokyo I was on an older plane that didn’t have the fancy individual screen that I have grown so fond of, and it was a real struggle trying to keep it together for the 10 hours in the air.
(You can see video from my travels on the bullet train and through Arizona on my instagram sometimesmaybeme, and be on the lookout for a longer video of driving through northern Arizona soon.)
2. Coming back can be overwhelming.
In Japan I live alone, and sometimes an entire day can go by without me actually speaking to another person face to face. I hadn’t realized how used to the quiet life I had become until suddenly I was surrounded by people and having conversations throughout the day. Even for an extrovert it was exhausting. I realized that Japan has given me a real appreciation for quiet alone time. The time I spend alone in my apartment here in Japan is how I breathe and prepare for whatever is next, and suddenly no longer having that time, even if it was because I was spending time with people I loved and wanted to spend time with, was difficult.
3. Coming back can be reaffirming.
Being around my family reminded me that I am loved, that there are people who support me and are proud of me for doing what I am doing with my life. Being back in the town I went to high school in reminded me of the journey I have taken to get to where I am today. As I saw the familiar streets and faces I could see the choices I have made to get here laid out in clear succession, and once I could see all of the choices I have made I was filled with a self-assurance I haven’t felt for the last few months. I realized, once again, that I am doing what I need to be doing by living and teaching in Japan, and that even though it may be difficult, alienating, and lonely at times, it is simply the most recent in the series of choices I have been making for years that are leading me to a bigger and brighter future.
4. I have changed.
Going back to the places you have lived in the past always forces you to acknowledge how you have changed. I left Bullhead City for college in Flagstaff in 2010, and in the last few years I only returned for occasional holidays and family events. Being there for an entire week really allowed me to see how different I am from the person who left in 2010. What I want from life is no longer the same. The way I communicate with and interact with the world around me has fundamentally changed as education both in and out of the university forced me to reevaluate the way I take in and process information. I have traveled to other countries by myself and been lucky enough to see parts of the world that many people I know will possibly never have the ability, or the inclination, to see. My first five months in Japan has certainly changed me. I feel myself growing up as my understanding of the world is growing out to encompass new places, people, and ideas. Returning to Bullhead allowed me to acknowledge, for the first time, that I have truly become a young adult who exists as my own, autonomous entity in this large, wonderful world.
5. I will continue to change.
The acknowledgement of how I have changed since coming to Japan naturally raises the question of how I will continue to change throughout my two years here. I wonder if the next five months here will change me as deeply as the last have. Change is the only thing I can truly anticipate as the new year begins and I start my second term teaching in Japan. And while that is terrifying, I feel like as long as I am able to come back and see where I have come from every once in a while I will make it out alright.
I am now back in Japan, feeling apprehensive but recharged for another year of adventure and learning. Be on the lookout for a post soon about welcoming in 2016, and follow my blog for more thoughts about things from the past and the future and other adventures in travel!